Barrow Clump Excavation 2017

Barrow Clump Excavation 2017
Barrow Clump was a long running excavation undertaken by Operation Nightingale and Wessex Archaeology on a Bronze Age monument or Barrow that was later reused during the Anglo Saxon period as a cemetery for their dead.

Previous excavations uncovered of 70 inhumations of various types with most containing grave goods such as beads, shield bosses, spears, broaches as unique drinking vessel and of course a sword. 

This project will be much less ambitious then previous excavations in its nature and scope, but we do expect to recover human remains that have been disturbed.

If you would like to be considered for this project then please email  

This excavation will link in with the Anglo Saxon research project that we will be starting at the end of November. 
Dig Diary
Day 1, Stewart Bowman

I was previously here during the Barrow Clump excavations in 2014/15 and now mentor the newer members of BGH, so naturally I jumped at the opportunity to return to ‘the Clump’ become involved in this project once again.

Today we looked at what was contained in the spoil heaps that have been created by the Badgers digging their burrows. The material that we found confirmed that there were still human remains to be recovered in some areas and that these burials conform to what we might have expected to find based on the experiences of the previous excavations. 

I am glad to be involved in such a great project, the bringing together of likeminded people with very similar experiences for a shared experience makes driving down all the way from the Highlands worthwhile.

Day 2, Dave Hart

Day two and the Badger manufactured spoil is being sieved furiously, mainly to keep warm, and there are some finds including a variety of bone and a Saxon knife. All are looking forward to some trenches opening on Monday but the general sense is that Barrow Clump will continue to intrigue us for a lot longer and it is good to be back. Now the sun has abandoned us it is time to get a fire going and reflect on the day.
Day 3, Dickie

Sunday chilly Sunday. 

After all the excitement of the past few days it was good to have a slow day today, finishing off the spoil heaps and test pits. Over the past 3 days we have had 10 veterans and serving personnel involved in this project and we expect more to come still, some of these were original participants of the Operation Nightingale projects and others are newer members of BGH. Today also included a presentation on site from our friends at MAST, showing some of the items they have recovered and reminding us about their open day this Saturday.

Tomorrow the plant machine arrives to strip off the topsoil so that we can begin our investigation properly. Keep watching for updates. 

Day 4, Dickie

Well the digger arrived this morning and opened our trenches, underwhelmed was an understatement. After a few heart stopping moments we discovered our first grave…. from 2015. Bugger, but as true professionals we carried on until finally our persistence paid off and we were rewarded with a grave, then another, then another and finally another. That’s four graves, two adults and two infants. 

We divided up our team of veterans and mentors and set them the task of excavating these features and it wasn’t long before they uncovered an infant and an adult. The infant appears to only have a skull surviving at present, whereas the adult is in rather good condition, with the adult having some form of disc brooch. Judging by previous excavations at this site, grave goods like this would indicate a female burial but we will wait out on that for further confirmation. 

Our additional exploratory trenches looking to find the extremities of this site appear to have done just that, as it looks remarkably sterile in them both.

Now we hunker down and prepare for another night on site with hopefully a little less rain.

Day 5, Kenny 

Having worked on the previous digs at barrow clump like Stu, I again jumped at the chance to return to help excavate the graves that the digger unearthed on day 4 and mentor some of the next generation of participants. Today we got into full swing, with most of the earth removed from the graves, each skeleton has been cleaned around and a few grave cuts partially recorded. With 5 known grave cuts, I was happy to have quite a basic grave with no grave goods or rooting covering the remains for a change.
We welcomed a few visitors onto site, one being BFBS who were interested on how the project and site itself was progressing. A few of us were happy to give interviews about the site and how we got involved, so please keep an ear out on the radio about it all. 
Yet again, it’s time to hunker down for another coldish evening around the camp fire and hope the rain holds off. 

Day 6, Dickie

The silence can be broken now the artefacts have been lifted. These past two days have been bloody awesome as the teams have been gradually excavating the graves. It has felt at times like the occupants have been teasing us with what they own, revealing ever more beautiful possessions as we carefully excavate their place of rest.

What we have found during this has been unique for Barrow Clump, our first grave, an adult (probably female) was laid with two disc brooches, a pair of tweezers, a perforated coin necklace and an associated bead necklace. Our second adult grave looks to be male with a spear head, shield boss, belt buckle and knife, with a beautiful pot beside his head. We have two infant burials with only one of them containing anything, but what it did contain was a beautiful oval broach. 

We have had another burial on the peripheries of the site, this burial is a juvenile that is in quite a poor state of preservation with its legs flexed and, as is always the case, we have just discovered another burial with yet another pot included not three paces away. 

This project for me has been the best Barrow Clump to date. No, we haven’t found another sword or Visigoth brooch, we haven’t even found a drinking vessel with surviving wood, but what we have found (and I can’t believe that I am saying this) is some beautifully intact pot.

This morning as I was watching our participants hard at work excavating our potential female adult, I chanced to glance up and look towards the direction of where we think that their settlement would have been and the sun shone a beautiful orange glow, it did little to warm my bloody freezing toes but it did warm the heart a little. 

Day 7, Paul Goodyear

From day one, I have thoroughly enjoyed the BGH experience. I assisted Briony digging an evaluation trench, which was excellent hands on experience, and took part in sieving for finds from the badger spoil - more rewarding and physically easier for me than evaluation trenches. 

The best part of the dig for me has been unearthing human remains that were discovered on Monday; I have spent most of my dig time focused on the remains of a child between 3 and 4 years old. Although, due to the poor state of the bones, it is probably the least significant grave discovered, to me personally, as a dad, I feel a responsibility to finish the task with as much respect as I can. 

I am grateful to all the archeology team for their patience and guidance and most of all friendship. Also the other veterans for the good crack. 
I have found it all to be thoroughly exhausting and physically demanding, but over time here have become less anxious about my limitations due the infinite understanding of the team. In the past 7 days I have felt a sense of purpose and felt part of a team. All positives in my book.

Day 8, The final day. Dickie 

Well folks, what can I say. This excavation has been one of our best projects yet and a personal favourite of mine, we have found; intact pots and not so intact pots, knives, a spear head, buckles, brooches, pins, tweezers, amber beads, glass beads, human remains and equally important new friendships. 

It has been a hard week I won’t lie, we have braved the cold November elements for the sake of archaeology and for the love of what we do. Folks have had to endure my cooking and bask in my witty banter (a joy for anyone), we have had some new participants come along and have seen the return of some of our mentors. Participants have come from as far as the Highlands of Scotland, Leeds, Sheffield, Colchester, Exeter, Wales and more local areas such as Warminster and Basingstoke, all to get stuck in to this extraordinarily special site where the concept of BGH was devised. 

For BGH it has been a long journey, an idea born from necessity to enable veterans to participate in Operation Nightingale projects with the support that they need. We are now looking at partnerships with Universities, we are invited to attend excavations on some truly remarkable and special sites, we are conducting some ground breaking research of our own, we have been asked to co-author on an outstanding conference and have recruited a board of directors that will project BGH forward into 2018 and beyond. 

We will be starting the new year firing on all cylinders, we will be hosting our very first conference on the 21st February in Tidworth, along with some research and training sessions in Somerset. 

These projects are only possible due to the hard work of our volunteers, so to you ladies and gentlemen I say a huge hear felt thank you. 

If you like what we have been up to and want to get involved, please get in touch with us at

Post Excavation Reflections

Jayne, BGH Volunteer 

It has been a privilege to be digging with a great group of veterans, some of whom I have worked with before and others for the very first time this week.  

There was fantastic banter around the camp fire along with copious amounts of tea and plenty of Dickie's cooked concoctions including hot spam sandwiches and hot dogs.

The archaeology left me speechless - many of whom can vouch for that. I felt honoured to lift the beautiful complete Anglo-Saxon bowl from its resting place of some 1,400 years. I hope that John and Harvey enjoyed working along with me in our excavation of the Anglo-Saxon grave with all it's wonders.  

I look forward to what 2018 will bring, I hope it will be as successful as 2017.
Share by: